State of Colorado State athletics as basketball season returns

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Prentiss Nixon. Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie, USA TODAY Sports.

Basketball season has returned.

And, for Colorado State Rams fans, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Colorado State football, which was expected to win a Mountain West Championship for the first time since 2002 by people from both inside and outside their locker room, has now dropped two straight conference games.

CSU football faced one of the toughest out of conference schedules of any team in the FBS level, and they escaped 2-2, which could’ve been an even better record. But the Rams learned from not only their dominant wins during that time, but also the crushing losses to CU and ‘Bama.

Colorado State took a lot of confidence away from that loss to No. 1 Alamaba in Tuscaloosa, and they remain the team to score the most on the Crimson Tide all season, a team who’s won a litany of National Championships on the back of their defense.

The Rams ran off four straight wins in their Mountain West, each one less and less convincing, before the wheels completely fell off during this two-game losing streak. They destroyed Hawaii, then were dominant in the first half against Utah State, holding onto win but losing their mojo during that second half when Mike Bobo decided to go completely conservative in his coaching.

CSU led early and then had to come back to defeat Nevada narrowly, 44-42, then barely beat New Mexico in Albuquerque to start the season 6-2, 4-0 in conference. Then, the Rams ran into the terrible triple-option – for a second straight week – and looked like they had never played against it, being blown out 45-28 at home by Air Force.

After that loss, Mike Bobo told the media, “My message to the team? We got our asses kicked.”

He also said they’d be ready to play Wyoming, which, overall, they were. The Rams fought stalwartly for most of four quarters in Laramie, always a difficult place for CSU to play, especially in the heavy rain and then dumping, wet snow. And CSU led for most of that game, clinging to a one-point lead (10-9) at the end of the third quarter.

But Josh Allen and Wyoming wouldn’t be denied and marched on a tired Rams defense for the game-winning score, when Kellen Overstreet plowed into the frosty end zone against a Colorado State D. that wasn’t even set for the play.

Now, at 6-4 overall and 4-2 in conference, the Rams are nearly eliminated from playing in that Mountain West Championship game. Colorado State needs Boise State to lose two of three – they play one another in FoCo next week – but beat Air Force. For CSU to get in, Wyoming needs to win two but lose to 1-9 San Jose State in their season-ender. And Air Force needs to lose to Wyoming, beat Boise and then lose to Utah State.

While football will again, likely come up short of their goal of being conference champions, there have already been two Colorado State programs to earn the honor this year. On Oct. 27, Rams track and field/cross country became Mountain West champs for the first time, and then, on Friday, CSU women’s volleyball took home their 14th conference title.

And that loss on Saturday night in Laramie by the football team was book-ended by two wins – albeit, exhibition victories – by CSU men’s basketball.

See? Not everything is doom and gloom in Fort Fun.

Colorado State football falling off the mountain is at least bolstered by the CSU men’s hoops team getting back to the hardwood in Moby Arena. Oh, and don’t forget about the four-time MW regular season champion women’s basketball team, either, who tips off their season just before the men do, at 5:30 p.m. MST this Friday, Nov. 10.

The men, led by Larry Eustachy and Prentiss Nixon, have started the year 2-0 in those exhibition contests, beating Colorado Mesa 86-75 and, on Sunday night, narrowly defeating Northern Colorado 83-79.

Friday night at 7 p.m. MST is when the men tip off the season in earnest, hosting Sacramento State in a year which is packed with solid out-of-conference opponents, something the hoops team has lacked since Eustachy took over in 2012.

Last year, Eustachy’s team came one game away from taking the conference in the regular season and again one game from winning the championship and going to the NCAA tournament, losing both deciding games to the Nevada Wolfpack.

Eustachy’s Rams fought through more adversity in one year than they’ve seen in all of his seasons combined. Gian Clavell was suspended for the beginning of the season due to a second arrest, then the team lost three players due to academic ineligibility, leaving them with the “Magnificent 7.” Oh, and Eustachy’s “culture of fear” was brought to light, too, and an investigation into the head coach had former AD Jack Graham requesting for his firing.

This year, Eustachy told us after the team’s first practice they’re “…a year away…” due to having only one senior, Che Bob. But, that hasn’t changed junior point guard Prentiss Nixon’s goals.

“My expectations are to win a league championship, make the NCAA tournament and that’s been my expectation since I was 17, 18 years old,” Nixon said in an interview for Mile High Sports Magazine. “And last year, we came up short. This year, I think we have the pieces, we can win the league. It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be nights things don’t go right, when things go wrong. But, as long as we rebound and defend, we’ll be right up there with the best of them.”

Like with football, it’s been a long time — 2003 — since the men’s hoops team has won a championship, but, you can’t fault a player for dreaming big.

And, while the big-time sports haven’t put trophies in the case in nearly 15 years, CSU’s other sports are doing damage in the Mountain West.

 

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